What’s better for you to read? Ebooks or paper books?
The answer will vary from person to person. Many older people will prefer paper, and libraries must not forget about their needs.
Long term, however, ebooks will win out because the technology is improving, and more and more children are “born digital.” For now, many readers will shift back and back and forth between media. What’s more, it is possible that younger children will always respond better to the feel of paper books—that debate goes on. No reason exists why a national library endowment couldn’t help pay in some cases for paper books for young children and others in poorer library and school districts. But the students can move on to ebooks when they are older to enjoy access to a much wider range of titles.
Another challenge is the complexity of presenting information in digital textbooks. The cure often can be to use hyperlink-rich Web sites instead, with powerful search engines and tools to help students make new connections, navigate and go back and forth between interrelated pages. Still, in so many other instances, no substitute exists for self-contained books—for example, in the presentation of long, immersive narrative, whether fiction or nonfiction. Books, moreover, can excel as homes for ideas and encouragers of sustained thought.
We mustn’t dumb down education just to accommodate the limitations of the Web and other digital technology. Simply put, we need to look ahead to the time when digital will be the main way to read not just shorter items, but also actual books. And that means according ebooks the respect they deserve. Otherwise digital really will lower of the level of intellectual discourse.
Frustratingly, widespread ignorance of digital books abounds. Research on ebooks is so often remindful of “science” in the era of phrenology. Even Jules Verne fell for the old claptrap. Reflecting prejudices against ebooks, too many experts stack the cards against them in studies. Worse, not enough researchers are paying attention to what should be the main issue: How can we improve ebooks and the use of them?
Many libraries already have committed to ebooks, like it or not, by featuring physical books less prominently to make way for community activities and other uses of buildings. Now librarians and educators must understand the need to look ahead rather than merely focus on the status quo. Especially, they should ignore the following ebook myths:
- Myth One: We don’t need full ebook literacy
- Myth Two: Ebooks are inherently harder to read from than paper books are
- Myth Three: Material in ebooks is more difficult to absorb than material in paper books
- Myth Four: Ebooks were a passing fad: People have forever lost interest
- Myth Five: Ebooks are just for the well-off
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